Call me Emma

Senior plays lead role in musical, “Emma”

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Photo by Megan Brandon

Senior Logan Smith rehearses for the musical “Emma.” Smith will play the lead role of Emma.

Story by Leah Crenshaw, viewpoint editor

The crowd grows silent as the house lights dim. Hundreds of eager eyes bore into the curtain. Finally, the lights go up, the curtain sweeps open, and the first notes ring out through the theater. After months of work, countless rehearsals and more than a few hard days, Emma herself takes the stage, played by senior Logan Smith. After four years in the Tiger Theatre Company, she has completed the ultimate ascension from bit roles to the biggest character in the biggest show of the year.

It all began with an impressive audition in November. Smith, who has been part of the theater since freshman year, had more than enough experience with the process. Each audition is generally the same: sign up, spend quite a lot of time waiting, perform a monologue and song for about three minutes, leave, and pray. But for Smith, this audition was something more.

“I was really nervous at first because I get freaked out singing in front of people,” Smith said. “Despite that, I actually think it was one of my better auditions. I had chosen a monologue that I felt like I could really connect with. It was Jennifer’s monologue from Tomorrow’s Wish, and then ‘Wherever He Ain’t’ was my song. I was nervous, but I think it was the best I ever sang that song.

After the weeks of preparation and the actual audition, Smith had to wait another day to discover her fate for the next three months. A round of callbacks and a few more hours of deliberation finally ended with director Melissa Newton posting her final decision that evening.

“I was planning to go see the list at eleven o’clock when I knew no one would be there,” Smith said. “That way I could glance at the door, see if my name was there. But then at six-thirty, I start getting all of these texts saying ‘You need to come see the cast list. Now.’ So I reply ‘Um, uh, ok…I’ll do that.’ My friends took the cast list off the outside door and made me come into the theater so they could see my reaction. They were expecting me to scream or something, but I was shocked into silence. I thought, ‘Now there are all these expectations that I have to live up to.’”

These expectations that inevitably come with a lead role were new for Smith. The rehearsal schedule was brutal. Smith had to memorize all of her lines over Christmas break and then immediately launched into a crazy January schedule. Two Saturdays were spent in all day rehearsals beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 9 p.m. if everything was up to par. This was incredibly different from Smith‘s past work in smaller roles.

“Most of the roles I’ve had in the past were small,” Smith said. “In Funny Girl I had maybe two or three lines as Mrs. Meeker. Mrs. Kirby (from You Can’t Take It With You) was one of my larger roles. This has been a whole new experience being the lead role in a show. I just feel like I’ve climbed my way through the ranks from these small characters to Emma. I have so many nerves, and I have so much to prove.”

One of the things Smith has indeed proved is her complete understanding of just who “Emma” is. She has spent extensive time building a fully developed character from the dialogue in the script.

“Emma is out there,” Smith said. “She’s very naive about some things, and doesn’t realize that there are people in the school who really like her. Despite this she does want the best for those close to her heart. She wants to do what’s best for them, but it doesn’t always work out that way. She’s also one of the most popular girls at Highbury.”

Playing such an outgoing character has been an adventure for Smith, who considers herself fairly timid. Like many actors, Smith has noticed changes in her own personality in playing a character so different from herself.

“I am really shy,” Smith said. “I’ve liked playing Emma because we differ so much. She’s very outgoing, almost an in-your-face kind of character, where I’m more of a hide-in-the-background kind of person. I’m not going to say what I’m thinking, but that usually gets the better of her. It’s been kind of difficult to portray her because we differ so much, but I feel like I’ve really found my voice.”

The musical has taught Smith a lot, both in the script and out of it. After three months of work, Smith has taken two important lessons from the show that opens tonight.

“I keep having to remind myself to not beat myself when I do something,” Smith said. “If I feel like I could’ve done something better, or if I have a day where rehearsal is just going really terribly, through this process I’ve learned that that’s ok. On top of that, this show really teaches that while we are all so focused on our future, it’s ok to not know what we want or where we want to go. The not knowing just makes life even more fun.”